WITH a wealthy businessman in the White House, it feels timely that the American individualist, capitalist spirit has been represented in Hollywood films on a few notable occasions this year.
Gold – now available to stream on Amazon Prime – sits alongside The Founder and American Made as films exploring an individual’s driven pursuit of extreme wealth. Born out of middle-age boredom and economic downturns, these men risk all to pursue a super-sized version of the American dream.
In keeping with Tom Cruise (American Made) and Michael Keaton (The Founder), Matthew McConaughey, hiding his Hollywood good-looks under a disappearing hairline, gives an impressive central performance as aspiring prospector Kenny Wells. A character loosely based on David Walsh and his involvement in the ’90s Bre-X controversy.
Seven years after losing his father and subsequently losing his way, Wells draws inspiration from a vivid dream and heads to Indonesia in search of gold.
When he arrives, Kenny sells geologist Michael (Edgar Ramirez) on his gold-laden dream. As the duo set up their mining operation in the jungle, Kenny is blighted by disgruntled workers and a life-threatening bout of malaria. Eventually, Kenny comes around from his sweaty, hallucinatory haze to discover they have hit the mining motherload. He returns Stateside ready to make a fortune.
This jungle success thrusts Kenny, derogatorily described by one of his peers as a ‘drunken racoon’, into the ruthless world and high-stakes of Wall Street. Out of his depth, Kenny must contend with the suit-wearing predators waiting to capitalise on his inadequacies and seize his gold. Everyone wants a slice of Kenny’s shimmering pile.
Caught up in the cross-fire is Kenny’s girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard). Like the women in American Made and The Founder, she is merely a unwitting passenger in this machismo quest. Unsurprisingly, it is not long until Kay is neglected by Kenny, whose head is turned by popping champagne bottles and a seductive blonde business woman (played by Rachel Taylor).
Gold zips along steadily but never quite hits the jackpot, despite McConaughey’s typical magnetism. Gilded rather than pure gold. Consequently, it is the least compelling of these whirlwind narratives. It lacks the preposterous fun of American Made, and the concentrated Keaton-led intrigue of The Founder.
Even still, Gold does put a reasonably entertaining spotlight on, as Kenny calls them: ‘the make it happen fuckers.’ The type of guy that will do anything for the thrill of success and the achievement of a dream.
Given a bit of luck, one of those men might have ended up in the Oval Office. That is the brilliant – yet slightly troubling – absurdity of the American dream, which is on full display in Gold.
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